Category Archives: General

The No-Acre Homestead, Faster Than the Speed of Sound

At least that’s what it feels like around here, lately. Despite not keeping at all current on posts, the No-Acre Homestead has been plugging along, if not flying at warp speed. I’m going to try to post more frequently, albeit much more briefly. Hopefully, that will keep the lines of communication flowing better than they have been!

Here is today’s offering…harvested from our Edible Driveway during my first cup of coffee.


Red cabbage, harvested at dawn from the No Acre Homestead

The red cabbage was planted in November, and produced all winter. All in all, we had nine heads of cabbage, and countless loose leaves plucked as we needed them, from a circular raised bed just 30 inches across.


The fertile cabbage bed, just 30 inches across. Filled with scrumptious compost, it kept us stocked for over half the year.

Now that’s intensive planting!
And, no one can deny that red cabbage is indeed ornamental. People plant it in their front yards all the time, but rarely seem to eat it.
If there’s one thing that’s true about life here at the No-Acre Homestead, it’s that we never let good food go to waste!
Happy gardening.

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Filed under Eating in Season, General, Our No-Acre Homestead

Repurpose This: Delicious Wallet

I was waiting until the pup was definitely, positively, absolutely past the sneaky chewing stage before I replaced this wallet.

It finally stopped working for the purpose for which it was intended…and when a wallet starts losing money, it’s ready for a “Repurpose This” challenge.

So what can you make from a rectangle of golden yellow leather? I’ve been working on a new collection of Angel’s Share jewelry for Ridgely Retreat, so I am obsessed with accessories right now. Get inspired by these creations, and start thinking.

This stunning “Bloom” necklace by Fleur Fatale caught my eye. What a nifty way to use irregular scraps! Bonus: there’s finally a way to showcase a pretty stud earring that’s lost it’s partner.

Do you have a serviceable, but boring, wallet? Jazz it up with some leather strips like this one from Found By Nicki. It’s too attractive to be stuck in a dark purse…consider adding a strap to turn it into a wristlet.

I toyed with the idea of cutting the wallet into strips to use as cuffs for my own glass cabochons. But I just don’t have the space right now to delve into a new material. This beaded cuff from Junk in the Trunk Studio is just what I had in mind.

This bracelet by Febra Rose uses repurposed copper as well as leather. How gorgeous can trash get?

Finally, feast your eyes on these copper and leather earrings by Melissa Lowery. I admit, I do covet them.

Chime in with your creative ideas for repurposing this sad little wallet.

You don’t have to stick with accessories. The sky is the limit!

As always, I’ll be posting this wallet on FreeCycle later on. But if you are in Anne Arundel County and would like to adopt it yourself, just let me know in the Comment section.

Happy Repurposing!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Repurpose This: Wallpaper

For the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit stymied in trying to give this wallpaper away. It’s been up on FreeCycle in a few locations, and gotten some interest. I email back and forth to the Freecyclers, and set up a pickup plan. And then…without fail ( well, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing about it now) each one has been a no-show. I’m not sure why the wallpaper has elicited such an unusual response. Perhaps it’s such a visually strong object that it draws people in, people who like it, and think therefore they want it, but don’t really need it. And once faced with car keys, boots, and de-icing the car, are no longer interested in actually acquiring it.

But I’d wish they’d figure that out before we schedule a meeting!

So, with the goal of increasing the perceived value of 3 and 1/2 rolls of premium, vinyl-coated wallpaper, here are some ideas for using it, apart from the perfectly wonderful idea of putting it on the wall.


( this is the wallpaper on offer…very elegant, and with a matte vinyl coating)

Some very simple projects include:
Lining drawers
Matting for artwork
Scrapbook pages
Book covers

Here are some other ways to repurpose wallpaper, which may take a bit more planning, but are quite striking.

From Better Homes and Gardens, decoupage a tabletop. Really pretty! And imagine having a tablescape that links to your wall art or bookshelf….something like this? (also from BHG)

I just think that’s a beautiful way to accent with a bold pattern.

Can you imagine the lovely notes you could write while you were lounging in this BHG-inspired bed…

…and inspired by your repurposed-wallpaper stationery?

(photo courtesy of Singing Mommy )
Too predictable? Okay, how about beautifying the dumpsters in your neighborhood? There may not be enough wallpaper in my offer for an entire bin, but it could certainly provide an eye-catching start. ( Any Community Association rules that specifically disallow that?)

(thanks to CNN for sharing this version of street art)

Jump right in with your ideas, modest or crazy. Let’s create a need for these few rolls of wallpaper, and find a better home for them!

In response to some online coaching tips, this post was written entirely with the WordPress iPad app.  There’s quite a bit of a learning curve, including my struggle to center the images, and add captions.  Please be patient with this student blogger!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Urban Animals

Although Anne Arundel County is a suburb of both Washington DC and Baltimore, I hardly ever find a reason to visit those cities. I have more than enough to keep me happy and occupied right here in my own little corner of the universe. But sometimes, I am coaxed into their grey landscapes ( in this case, a gift certificate for wood-fired, gluten-free pizza inspired a mini road trip).

While searching for parking in DC, I noticed this whimsical sight amidst all the concrete. It was a quick snap with the camera phone, and a clumsy zoom. But the glimpse of the giant stuffed animals seemingly paying rapt attention to an unseen speaker made me smile.


On the second pass round the block, I noticed that the store was empty and dusty. I don’t know why these animals were there in the window, or how long they will wait. Street-art commentary about the state of Congress or randomly aligned pile of toy store overstock?


Whatever the reason, that small detail of soft acrylic fur within a long wall of hard concrete and glass made me feel just a little bit warmer.

(And the pizza was worth the journey.)

This post has been submitted to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. Please visit the other entries listed below for more interpretations of “Lost in the Details“.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Lost in the details. | jaycee68
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  5. Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details | The Voice from the Backseat
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  7. Lost in the Details | artisticmilestone
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  9. Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details | Efrata Denny Saputra Yunus
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details | Serendipity 13
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  18. Lost (and found) in the details – photo challenge | Atlantic Transcripts
  19. legs | yi-ching lin photography
  20. Lost in the details | Clouds of Colour



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Filed under General, Wish You Were Here

Walk and Wonder

The pup and I often make the most fascinating discoveries during our nature walks.

This find prompted a flurry of olfactory investigation.

I’m glad my shy girl wasn’t startled by the beady glare.
And warmed by someone’s random act of silliness.

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Filed under General

“Forward” With The White Hamon Sweet

Did you know that there are two kinds of sweet potatoes?  Here, in the Mid-Atlantic area, we are accustomed to the orange sweet.  But there is another variety, for years considered more adaptable to our climate. The white sweet potato lacks its cousin’s beta-carotene hue.  But for those of us lucky enough to taste this heirloom, the white sweet is a favorite for its rich flavor and creamy texture.

For unknown reasons, the white sweet fell out of popularity.  Finding one now takes a bit of persistence.  But the search is worth the effort.  The white sweet potato that you will hold in you hand will have been grown from slips from the best of the previous year’s harvest.  Those potatoes will have been sprouted off the potatoes from the year before that.  Each year takes the sweet potato farther back in time. Each sweet potato that you touch has been touched by hundreds of generations of families.  And each sweet potato that you cultivate will continue forward into time, as long as there are hands willing to keep it safe.


Here at the No Acre Homestead, we were lucky to have four White Hamon Sweets as part of our winter CSA box.  They had been handed down as slips, for generations, by families in Pennsylvania.

We ate one.

It was good.

We ate two more.

Then I immediately set up the last White Hamon to grow.  I didn’t want to risk forfeiting our chance to take part in preserving this treasure for the future.


 Starting a white sweet potato is ridiculously easy (like most things, once you know the guidelines, I’ve found). Skewer the potato with 3 or 4 evenly-spaced toothpicks.  Balance it in a wide-mouth jar, pointy side down.  That is the root side. The rounder end it the stem end, and you still may see a scar where the white sweet was once connected to the vine. New plants, called ‘slips’ will grow from here.

Fill the jar almost to the top with water.  The less chemicals, the better, in both the water and the potato.  Then place it in a sunny window.  Or as in our case, here in the north-facing Homestead, give it the best daylight you can manage.  This actually works.  Can you see in the picture above, in the middle of the jar, a faint horizontal line?  That is the new root growing, after just one day in the jar.

Life really wants to continue.

From this point on, I’m sharing photos from Food Skills for Self-Sufficiency. I have not advanced my sweet potato to the photogenic stage quite yet.

This is what the white sweet potato will look like in a few weeks. The gorgeous foliage is entirely edible. And, yes, it’s the same sweet potato vine that you see in hanging baskets all summer. (photo courtesy of Skills for Self-Sufficiency)

Just keep the water topped off, and be gentle in handling the mother plant.  When the slips are about 5 or 6 inches long, they will easily break off.  That’s when you can plant them, about 18 inches apart into loose soil, if your garden is ready.  Or into pots until the time is right.  Perhaps you’d just prefer to keep them in containers?  A secret weapon for front-yard gardeners, sweet potato vines are gorgeous in their own right. The same potato can be used  to sprout again, if you would like more plants.

How awesome is that?

This was our fall harvest from the same plants

This wheelbarrow-full came from the slips from just one sweet potato. One of these will be the mother for the next year’s harvest. (photo courtesy of Skills for Self-Sufficiency)

For more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge, take a peek at these blogs:

  1. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | SimplySage
  2. Book Review: You’re Already Amazing | Living The Seasons
  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: | Winning Shots
  4. Weekly Photo Challenge: looking FORWARD to the future | The Voice from the Backseat
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Anotherdayinparadise2′s Blog
  6. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | purrsonal mewsings
  7. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | My Thoughts like Balloons
  8. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | It’s Just Me: My thoughts and happenings of the day…
  9. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Tami Clayton
  10. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Rainbow Bakery
  11. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Pishikera
  12. Featured Image (Weekly Photo Challenge) : Forward | Jejak Langkah
  13. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | wildersoul
  14. Weekly Image Of Life: Blessing Of Hope | this man’s journey
  15. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Nicola Anthony
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Filed under General, Our No-Acre Homestead

Repurpose This: Glass Quart Jars

Our farm co-op no longer has the room to take back glass quart jars, among other packaging materials. Right now, I’m using all the egg cartons I can get my hands on for seed starting, so that’s no problem. I use the veggie boxes to package items for consignment. The straight-sided jars go into the studio for storage. But these small-mouthed quart jars with shoulders are piling up. I have a zillion ideas for repurposing them, but I am really trying to pare down supplies here. So here’s some pictures to get you inspired. And if you have any more thoughts, fire away! As always, they are available for local pickup, through this blog or through the Anne Arundel Freecycle boards.

20130224-153225.jpgI was trying to stay away from plain-old storage ideas. But this photo from Roadkill Rescue is so enticing. A bit of etching cream and some time is all it takes to create some customized bottles.

20130224-153645.jpgSlow Your Home has a mini-tutorial on turning old jars into hanging candle holders. Gorgeous!

20130224-153953.jpgThis idea from Indulgy is a repurposing trifecta! Jars, candleholders, and lids all find a new purpose as canisters on pedestals. I’m so impressed!

20130224-154342.jpgOver on Etsy, ARTful Salvage creates birdfeeders from glass jars, dishes, and assorted hardware. They’re quite elaborate. Luckily, they’re for sale, as well as for inspiration.

20130224-154828.jpgAnd finally, Rikki Hibbert uses her jars as a really unique way to display photos. Check out her site for details.

Ahhh, if only I had the room and the time, I would try all of these ideas! If you try any of them, please share your results. I’d love to see them.

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Somewhat Weekly Recipe: Capsaicin Balm

I am always trying to learn more about natural approaches to wellness. I enjoy the connection to the environment as well as the sense of accomplishment when I concoct a solution to an ailment in my own kitchen or garden. Lately, I’ve been dealing with some irksome pain, and trying to moderate my use of those harsh oral pharmaceuticals with all of their troubling side effects. I’ve learned that there are so many options available for topical pain relief. Arnica, aloe, menthol, eucalyptus, and willow bark, for example, are all wonderful additions to the herbal medicine chest, and very helpful. Last week, however, my doctor recommended trying a capsaicin rub for persistent neurological pain. Our discussion jogged a distant memory about neurotransmitter function, the role of the mysteriously-named Substance P in pain sensation, and the unusual effects of capsaicin on the sensory system.


A bowl of seriously hot peppers. These dried on the plant in the garden, and I picked them just before using. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

In a nutshell, Substance P delivers the message to your central nervous system that you are in pain.  Capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, blocks Substance P from being made. No messenger…no message delivered.  The cause of the pain is not affected, just the feeling.  So capsaicin acts as an analgesic, without the nasty side effects of a lot of the prescription drugs that are recommended for chronic pain. Capsaicin balms and rubs are available over-the-counter.  But some have ingredients to which I am sensitive.  And all of them are darn expensive.

Thank goodness I have a kitchen!


I used some tiny hot peppers and regular grapeseed oil to begin. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)


I didn’t bother to trim the peppers, because I planned on straining the extract. I just put them in a small saucepan, covered with the grapeseed oil, and snipped around with some scissors to increase exposure of seeds and ribs. I brought the whole thing to a simmer, and then turned down and left for a day with the lid on. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

I was so excited by the aroma and color on the next morning that I forgot to take a picture.  But I did pour the whole thing into a mesh strainer to catch the spent peppers.  The extract could certainly be used at this point as a muscle rub (isn’t that easy?) but I know I tend to get a little clumsy when I am in pain.  Oil would guarantee a mess, and probably some unintended discomfort if I splashed it anyplace sensitive.  So I took another step.

Because I wanted to firm up the extract, I added 2 Tbl vegetable wax (the pellets in the photo) and a dollop of vegetable glycerin to maintain pliability (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

Because I wanted to firm up the extract, I added 2 Tbl vegetable wax (the pellets in the photo) and a dollop of vegetable glycerin to maintain pliability (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)


This was stirred until it was completely melted.  The color is just amazing. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

This was stirred until it was completely melted. The color is just amazing. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

Then, because I wanted to make sure that the balm was really, really powerful, I decided to add a few aggressive shakes of cayenne powder to the mix.  I brought the pot to a simmer again, to make sure all the essential oils of the cayenne were released.  Then I cooled just slightly to handle.


My super-duper straining apparatus. I wanted to make sure any cayenne particles were removed. So I used my jelly funnel and a muslin bag (real cheesecloth would work, too) The jar is the final vessel for the rub. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

I had to work somewhat quickly, because the vegetable wax hardens as it cools.  I’m sure there’s another use for the lees and the muslim bag, but, encrusted as it all was with spicy wax, I just tossed them into the compost.


The final product. Homemade capsaicin balm, no artificial ingredients and costing just pennies. It looks and smells delicious, is food-grade, and feels great on sore muscles. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

I haven’t used enough of the homemade capsaicin balm to know if it will help me stay off some of the pharmeceuticals.  But I can tell you that it definitely feels warm and wonderful directly on sore muscles!

Do you have any home remedies that you rely on?  Feel free to share your recipes!

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Filed under Eating in Season, General, Our No-Acre Homestead

Repurpose This: Working TV

This television set was actually our own, here at the No Acre Homestead. But a while back, Mike got his heart set on one of those giant, fancy flat-screens. I thought that we could actually make use of two TVs, but we really don’t have the room. So here is a working TV, cable and HD-ready, with an actual remote. Free to a good home, if anyone bothers to watch a not-flat-screen TV anymore.

The TV available today is silver, not black.  And a Panasonic, not Magnavox.  And it's not as furry.  But other than that, it's pretty much the same.

The TV available today is silver, not black. And a Panasonic, not Magnavox. And it’s not as furry. But other than that, it’s pretty much the same.

Yeah. I didn’t think so.

I figure, in a larger, child-oriented home, a second TV could be used in a family room as a dedicated game system or DVD player. I bet, with an HDMI cable (see how much I’ve been learning about these things since I started blogging?) you could make a permanent spot for watching videos through your mobile device. (Right? I think I’ve got that right.) Or use it as a dedicated monitor for your home security system.

How about a TV just for the dog to watch while the humans are out doing their human activities?

Want more pet-related ideas? These involve taking the guts out of the unit. (Guts…that’s a tech-y term.) If you do this, please dispose of the innards carefully. There may be some sketchy ingredients inside electronics.


Gutted and painted, this TV makes a groovy pad for a cool cat. (photo courtesy of Fresh Home)


This old floor unit is full of retro charm. It’s a simple job to turn it into a crate for a small pooch. (photo courtesy of Manteresting)


I’ve read the instructions, and believe it or not, it doesn’t look too tricky to make and aquarium out of an old TV set. (photo courtesy of Aquahobby)

So, if you are nearby and want to pick up this television, just drop me a line. And keep your eyes out on the Anne Arundel County Freecycle boards, too.


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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Even Farther, But Getting Closer

Did you see the column two days ago where I promised I would be right back? Well, that didn’t happen as planned. Nothing interesting happened in the interval, but life has a way of making petty demands just when you get on a productive roll, doesn’t it?

I was interrupted during my last post by the urgent needs of the pup.  How could I resist?  She makes me smile.

I was interrupted during my last post by the urgent needs of the pup. How could I resist? She makes me smile.

So two days later, I am even farther from “…Far From Normal”, the post prompted by the WordPress Challenge. That seems to be the running motif here, so everything is working just fine.


I am nominating bloggers that take a generally sunny outlook on the mundane. Thanks for making the ordinary…beautiful.

To pick up the thread of the dropped post, here are my nominations for the Beautiful Blog Award. ( I would love to nominate Terry1954, but since she nominated me, that might smack of corruption. And we are very sensitive to that here near the nation’s Capital). What I looked for in the nominees was an overall theme of finding the beautiful moments that are so easy to miss during the overall mundane rhythm of the day’s requirements. Just like the Challenge prompted, these bloggers may have “ordinary lives”, but they consistently find ways of writing about them that makes them interesting.

I’m not sure if all these wonderful writers accept popular choice awards. There is some debate that awards promote favoritism, are tools for increasing readership, and are not serious critiques. To those charges, I agree. Personally, I don’t think any of those things are bad, and I truly get excited when I get approval from other bloggers. But I know that different blogs are set up with different purposes, and an award logo may not be in keeping with the message. To all current and future nominees, please feel free to acknowledge, display, or ignore the awards as you see fit. But please accept the spirit in which the nomination is given.

I have been inspired, delighted, and educated by your perspective.

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Filed under General